Over a month ago I attended nErDcampMI in Parma, MI. I intended to reflect on the experience rather quickly so that I could cement my learning and intentions. Instead I found myself in the bustle of travel followed by the transition back home, houseguests, a college-age daughter visiting briefly, and the ramp up to a new school year.
Why did I go? Many people looked at me with surprise when they realized that I was from Colorado. While people do travel great distances to attend this ED Camp, a large number of attendees are from surrounding states (Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio were well-represented). Many of the bloggers whom I follow in the education world attend this conference, and some even created it. It has a lot of buzz in my online wanderings. I was intrigued by that buzz, especially learning about the large number of children’s lit authors and illustrators who attend. I found that it would fit my summer travels this year, and so I went.
It was marvelous! The very first session was a panel of authors and a librarian speaking on the importance of diverse books, especially when written by diverse authors. I walked away with titles to explore, read, and purchase for my classroom library and an affirmation of the importance of providing both windows and mirrors for my students.
I listened to many speakers whose words I’ve read on the page or on a screen. It’s powerful to put a face to a name and see someone as a real person with a distinct (and perhaps unexpected!) personality. I laughed with Tracey Baptiste (The Jumbies), nodded along with R. J. Palaccio (Wonder), and spoke with Alex Gino (George) about the positive impact their book has had on individuals at my school.
I arrived excited to learn more about #classroombookaday and starting a Mock Caldecott unit. I came away with with ideas for both, titles to read for #classroombookaday, and confidence that this was completely doable. I gathered tips for streamlining our reading of picture books to make it more manageable and to fit into available bits of time. When I walked into my school in August, I happened to find a large piece of bulletin board paper on the wall, so I measured and calculated to transform it into a chart to track our reading progress. In some ways it seems quite empty, and yet, in the blank spaces I see the myriad opportunities for us to read and share picture books, building community and connection along the way. Our first week set the stage for fantastic conversation. I already love the insightful comments made in our class. I’m looking forward to collaborating with our art teacher for a Mock Caldecott unit, incorporating new picture books into our #classroombookaday reading to satisfy multiple purposes.
I’m intrigued to incorporate Mystery Skypes into our curriculum. What a fantastic way to use geography knowledge and map reading for an engaging purpose! We can connect with classes in other locations, learn about others, and work toward a common goal. There’s so much good tied up in all of this! A fabulous piece of this also is that we can connect with other classes throughout the year, so the geography work stays fresh. It’s not limited to our fall unit.
I gathered more ideas for how to support flexible seating in the classroom. My new teaching partner and I are incorporating the Daily 5 for the first time and dipping our toes into Responsive Classroom (not trained YET, but we hope to be). I love how multiple ideas support and feed one another, and we’re ready to be even more successful with flexible seating with a few more tools at our disposal.
One of my most admired and inspiring reading warriors is Donalyn Miller. I was lucky to attend a session run by her and Teri Lesesne about creating reading autobiographies with students. I’m intrigued to use it as a reflection later in the year. I was fascinated to consider the different ways you could use these autobiographies with students depending on their age and your curricular needs.
nErDcampMI is a little conference with a big impact, and I look forward to returning some day in the future. It complemented my other professional reading this summer and likely fed into my reflective work at our K-8 faculty retreat a couple weeks ago. We spent time at the retreat considering the WHY of our teaching – what fuels us, gets us out of bed in the morning, makes our job what we love.
I realized that my love of reading is one reason why I love teaching. I find such joy and value in reading, and I want to create those connections for other students.
Summers “off” for teachers are incredibly valuable. Making time to reflect, to learn, and to read is what helps me as I strive to be a better teacher. I’m excited for this new school year, and I can’t wait to incorporate new things that I learned.